Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Goals for 2015

If you're like me, (and why wouldn't you be - I'm fabulous!) you can't help but make resolutions, promises, or at least goals, for the upcoming new year.

I've heard some negativity from friends and family about this.
Why make resolutions - I never keep them. That sort of thing.

Blech. That's stinkin' thinkin'. That's what I think, anyway.

I LOVE goals.
The new year is a great time to make some new goals.
Fresh year.
Fresh start.
Fresh attitude.

We can totally DO THIS!

I have my annual health/weight goals, like most people do. And I will even be so bold as to make SMART goals for myself.

I also have goals for my writing career, and they shall be SMART as well.

Here they are:

S (specific): I will e-publish a new novella (between 20,000 - 40,000 words), approximately every month, totaling 8 more published novellas in 2015.  I will also bind the first 4 novellas into a book bundle, and include a bonus story as well. I'll continue this model with the final 4 novellas in a book bundle.

I will write the second novel of The Mind Renders Series. After the second novel has been written, revised, and edited, I will publish the first two books, and begin writing the third novel.

M (Measurable) 10 novellas (plus 2); 2 novels

A (Achievable) A 25,000 word novella can be written in 2 weeks if I write 1786 words per day. If I have an extensive outline, I can write over 2000 words in an hour.

An 80,000 word novel can be written in 40 days if I commit to writing 2000 words per day.

R (Relevant) The highest indicator of an indie publisher's success is by being a prolific writer with a large backlist of books. The more books a writer has available, the more chance of success she has.

T (Timely) I have 12 months to write 8 more novellas, and the second novel in the Mind Renderers Series.

January: Write novella #3. Revise. Publish.
February: Write novella #4. Revise. Publish.
March: Write novella #5. Revise. Publish box set including the first 5 stories.
April: Begin writing Mind Renders Book 2.
May: Writing Mind Renderers Book 2.
June: Revising/Editing/Publishing Mind Renderers Book 1 & 2. Publish.
July: Write novella #6. Publish.
August: Write novella #7. Publish.
September: Write novella #8. Publish.
October: Write novella #9. Publish.
November: Write novella #10. Publish box set including second set of 5 stories.
December: Begin writing Mind Renderers Book 3. Aim to publish in March 2016.

That's a lot of writing! Around 240,000 words next year. I have to believe I can do it, though. I want so much to be successful at being a writing. I would love, love, LOVE, to be writing full-time, using my writing money to pay off bills and to take care of my family. I know that writing a lot, and publishing a lot is the beginning to making that happen.

So, here's to my goals and yours!
We CAN do this!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Write. Publish. Repeat. Well...trying to, anyway.

I'm trying hard to jump start my indie writing career. Of all the advice I've heard, the advice that has stuck with me the most is for new indie writers to continue to write, write, write, as much as possible, and self-publish as much good writing as they can.

That's what I'm trying to do.

It's hard.

Just so you know.

But, I love it. I love the writing. The revising. The sending off of the manuscript to beta readers and editors for their critiques. I even love spending hours perusing the internet for reviewers and sending hundreds of emails out to potential readers for their reviews.

I love it all.

Except the wait.

The wait sucks.

There's nothing about publishing - traditional or self-publishing - that moves terribly fast.
I can move fast, as the author and publisher, but I can't force other people to move fast. Not my reviewers, or beta readers, or people who find and buy my book. They don't move as fast as I would like. :) Imagine that.

But, that's okay, because it's giving me time to write some more.
Today, I put final (hopefully!) revision touches on two novellas. One is being entered into a writing contest. The other is about to be published on Amazon, and other self-publishing platforms like Smashwords (once I've figured out just how to do that).

By tomorrow, if all goes well, Ai of the Mountain will be my newest ebook for sell on Amazon.com. I'm super excited to have the 2nd story in my Fairy Retelling series coming out! I have ideas for the next two books in the series as well, but let me tell you about this one first.

Ai of the Mountain is a fairy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in the southern mountains of feudal Japan.

Ai, a peasant girl, is torn between her sense of duty and honor, and her longing for a future of freedom. Placed into impossible circumstances by the lord of her region, the daimyo, Lord Nakaguchi,  Ai must choose between her family's safety and her own heart.

Ai's nightly dreams of Kaito, a handsome samurai warrior she has fallen in love with, and her friendship with an ancient, talking koi, further complicate her situation. Can Ai leave the mountain to escape Lord Nakaguchi's nefarious plan for her life, even if it means leaving her family and the man she loves?

Uggh, I hate summaries. They're so hard. There's so much more to the book than what is written here. Sigh. I guess you'll just have to read it to find out who is truly the beast in this story.

The next few stories I have in mind are also fairy tale retellings. The next is going to be a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, but set in ancient Egypt.

After that, I'm thinking of doing a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where the bears are shape-shifters. I'm not sure where to place the setting of that story yet...I'm leaning towards Scotland.

And then, I have in mind the bare bones for a retelling of Snow White, but making it a ghost story. What happens if Snow White truly does die after biting the poisoned apple?  Again, not sure where to put the setting of the story...maybe an African tribe, or something more traditionally spooky, like the mountains of Transylvania. Oooh, maybe Snow White's prince is actually a vampire? Hmmm...who knows at this point.

So many stories are swirling around inside my head, but until I start writing down the outline, and actually putting words on paper, they're very vague and formless. I'm going to try to actually outline my entire next book with a very detailed outline, so I really know what I'm writing before I write it. I think this will really help with my writing speed.

You'll see in my next post all about my writing goals for 2015. They're pretty lofty. I have a lot of writing that I want to do, so I need to make sure that I make the most of my time, and write as quickly as possible.

So, here I go...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Author Highlight - Quinn Loftis

I'm super excited to introduce you to Quinn Loftis, author of YA paranormal & fantasy. 

It is no secret that I am a podcast junkie, and I met Quinn through a podcast interview she did with Jonny Andrews on the Audience Hacker podcast. Although the podcast interview was uploaded months and months ago, I only heard it a few weeks ago for the first time. I've listened to this single podcast episode nearly 10 tens times since then! Every time I listen to it, I learn something new about being a self-published author.
Quinn invited listeners to contact her on her website, and that's just what I did. I was so stoked when she wrote back and answered some questions I had for her. She even agreed to do an interview with me, so that I could introduce you to her as well. 

Let me tell you a little bit more about her story...

Although Quinn enjoyed writing, it wasn't what she studied in school. She was a nurse by trade, and happened to "fall in" to writing. She had the idea for a novel, and pumped it out really quickly (this became her first novel, Prince of Wolves), but she sat on the novel for a year before she got enough gumption to publish it in 2011. Her exact words in the podcast interview were, "I was terrified!"
The book slowly took off, but Quinn used her natural curiosity and ingenuity to Google her way to success, finding answers to her questions, reviewers, and using GoodReads.com to her advantage. Today, Quinn is a full-time writer, having been able to quit her day job merely six months after the publication of her first novel, and after publishing the next two books in the series. She has at least 13 self-published books available, with more on the way, trying to publish a new book every 90 days!
Quinn was gracious enough to answer some of my questions, and I've included them for you here. Enjoy!

Q: When you’re writing, do you have a certain novel length you shoot for, or do you write “until the story is told” whether that’s 100 pages or 500 pages?

A: Typically my books are between 75,000 and 100,000 words but I write until the story is done. Sometimes it's longer and sometimes it just isn't. I refuse to write filler just for the sake of length.

Q: Can you take us back to what your writing life used to be like when you were just starting out, and you were still in the midst of your day job? How did you structure your time, so you were able to write, revise, and market your book?

A: I wrote at night when I was working full time. I remember during the day while at work I was so antsy to get home and write. I had ideas running through my head all day long and it drove me crazy not to be able to get it down right then. Sometimes I miss that eagerness. Now that I can write pretty much whenever I want I don't always feel that hunger. I love to write, don't get me wrong, but it's easy for it to become a job and not a love. I have to be careful not to get stuck in that rut. 

Q: Now that you’re a full-time author, what does a typical day look like?

A: I get up usually around 8 (it's a little different right now since we have a 3 month old and I'm pregnant) I'm up late at night sick a lot and up in the middle of the night to feed Jonivan so I try to sleep in a bit. I'm at the office by 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. Answer emails, FB, Twitter, etc. Then I read back about three chapters where I left off in my latest manuscript and go from there. I try to write about 3,000 words a day, sometimes it's less sometimes it's more. I finish up around 3:30 and then head to the gym for an hour work out. Working out really helps prevent writers block because it creates all the 'feel' good chemicals that help with creativity. So I try to really make that a priority as a part of my job. Then I head home. In the evenings I try to make time to work on things like book trailers, and continue to catch up on social media. I also make a priority to read. One of my favorite quotes of writing advice is by Stephen King. If you want to be a great writer I'm convinced you must do two things. Read a lot and write a lot. There are no short cuts. I totally agree with that. 

Q: Are you a planner/outliner, or a “pantser”/discovery writer? Have you ever tried writing the opposite way?

A: I'm a little of both. I usually start the story and then outline as I go. I don't think I could outline a book before I've developed the characters. The characters come first for me because that's who people need to connect with in order to give a crap about the story. 

Q: What strategies do you use for finding readers to review your books?

A: I use to reach out to bloggers, but Praise God I've built a big enough fan base that usually now people find me, which I am so very thankful for.

Q: What advice can you give to new authors, just starting out in the self-publishing world?

A: Do your research. Don't rely on other authors to explain everything, i'm not saying you can't ask advice, but it goes a long way to an established author when they see you are driven enough to first have sought out the information by googling, or searching on KDP (amazon platform) or iBooks etc. When I started I figured it out all on my own. I didn't know anyone in the self publishing world and I wasn't comfortable asking for help so google became my best friend. Driven people are successful people. If you truly want to be a self published author then you will learn and do what it takes to be successful at it. There truly is NO substitute for hard work.

Q: If you could hop into a time-traveling DeLorean, an H.G. Wells time machine, or (my favorite) a TARDIS, and talk to your ‘just getting started in this biz’ self, what would you tell yourself (without causing a rip in the fabric of space and time, of course)?  Specifically, what would you tell yourself to watch out for, stop doing, stop worrying about, or do more of?

A: Stop focusing on the negative reviews and just keep moving forward. learn from your mistakes and do everything you can to make your next book even better. Enjoy the journey, don't be in such a hurry that you miss out on the here and now. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Five Days of FREE!

Get it FREE Nov. 28 - Dec. 2!!
I'm super excited to finally have this project over and done with.

I uploaded it to Amazon in the wee hours of the morning, and was able to sign it up for 5 days of FREE! And who doesn't like that?!

So, from Black Friday, Thursday November 28 - December 2, you can get your copy of How I Roll: The Art of the Sugar Cookie without paying a dime. Get it fast, though, because on December 3rd it reverts back to its regular price of $2.99.

When I first thought about writing and publishing my books on Amazon, I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about. I had heard to write what you know. I happen to know a lot about baking sugar cookies, so that's what I did.

I spent many mornings writing this book at Panera's. I learned a great deal about how to organize and write a nonfiction book. It actually seemed easier to me than writing fiction. I'm sure that's not true for everybody, but it did seem so for me. I think that's probably because I outlined this book completely before I started writing, as opposed to how I usually wander around in my head while I write fiction.

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and an author named Rachel Aaron was being interviewed. The title of her new book is 2,000 to 10,000 How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love. I was super interested in hearing what she had to say. I have so little time to be both conscious, and writing, I want to make sure I use every moment wisely. Just because I'm a fairly quick typist, doesn't mean I'm a fast writer. I spend way too much time staring into space and trying to figure out what is going to happen next.

So, I'm committing myself to trying out Rachel Aaron's method on my next project. I have in mind my next fiction novella, and I'm going to go ahead and get it all outlined and thought out before I ever start writing the first word. Hopefully, this will help me to write even faster, and get more books written, much more quickly.

Are you writing? Which do you prefer, to be an outliner, or a pantser?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What's Coming Down the Pipe?

So many projects are floating around like spinning plates, I sometimes get confused about what I'm working on. Now that the first book in my fairy tale series is out and doing fairly well (real people have actually bought it - other than me!), I'm moving onto other things.

Two of my books are in critique mode right now. One is getting a lot of great critiques...the other is....well, not as much. Hopefully those helpful critiques will roll in soon.

One of the books is a fairy tale retelling that I'm submitting to a contest. If I win, great! If I don't, I'll revise it and then self-publish it myself. Either way, I'm happy. Since it's going to the contest, I'm not getting a cover made. But, if it doesn't win, I'm already considering possible cover ideas. I love coming up with ideas for covers. I actually spend way too much time looking over stock photo pictures that I'd possibly like to use. Then, I favorite them and create a bookmark file of picture ideas for each book. I'm a weirdo. I know. I can live with that.

Today, I got a cover design back from my designer and I am so in LOVE with it! I think it's beautiful. You'll think so, too. I know it!

Isn't it pretty? I think it's gorgeous! I love the colors. Do you love it? I know you love it! Love it!!

Okay, I realize I should calm down, but I'm just super stoked. In fact, I'm so excited, I'm ready to write, so I'd better wrap this up and get back to my story so I can get it finished pronto.

As you can no doubt tell, the story takes place in Japan, and is a Fairy Tale Retelling. I'm not going to give away just which fairy tale I'm using, yet. I want to see if my beta readers can figure it out. If not, well...I may have some editing to do.

I'm already thinking ahead to my next fairy tell retelling. I don't want to give away the premise of that one quite yet, either, but I can tell you that I'm planning on having it set in ancient Egypt.

I love the idea of having these fairy tales set in different times and different cultures. As someone who loves to travel and learn about new places and new people, I think it's fascinating to wonder about what sort of story can happen in a completely different setting than the one I've always read about in traditional fairy tales.

Other things I'm working on right now are my cookie book, which is the other book in the beta reader process. I should have those critiques done by the end of this week, and maybe will even have the book up ready to go on Amazon by Thanksgiving. That's my goal, anyway. My cover designer did a great job for that book, too!

The last thing I have on my plate is my full-length novel that I am slowly, but surely, editing a little. bit. at. a. time.
It's taking forever. I really need to get through my first revision so I can at least pass it on to my first readers. I think from my other experiences with beta readers, I'm going to just ask a couple of very trustworthy  (read "quick" and "gets back to me in a timely manner") first readers to help me out.

I have a couple of amazing readers, who are not only quick and dependable, but are also SPOT ON with their editing. I don't want to embarrass them, so I won't mention their names here, but I do want to pass on to anyone else who is looking for good beta readers, ask an ESL teacher. They are incredible at finding typos, grammar mistakes, and a whole slew of other things you didn't realize you messed up, and are now so glad that you passed the novel on to them, because they have eyes like a hawk, a hawk hooped up on too much caffeine, who can spot on all sorts of taipos, grammar mistakens, run-on sentences, and improper punctuation;

Anywho, I'm excited about the novel. I had planned for it to be part of a series when I first wrote it, but then as I was actually in the midst of getting it down, I decided to make it a stand alone novel. But then, when I got finished, I thought it still had some story left to tell, so, now I want to make it part of a series again. I know, I'm a wishy-washy writer. Something else I can live with.

The novel is titled Maevyn, and is about a girl whose family has been in a horrible accident. Maevyn  finds herself moving in with her grandma, a psychic and medium, in Parkville, Missouri. Just as she begins her senior year of high school, she starts hearing voices in her head, is stalked by a handsome yet mysterious stranger, and begins having dreams of her dead, ghostly father. And that's just the beginning!

Okay, enough book babble here. It's time to actually go and write.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cursed Beauty Comes Out Tomorrow!

To say I'm excited is a bit of an understatement. I'm SUPER excited to be self-publishing my first fiction work, Cursed Beauty.

I wrote this story a year ago for a writing contest. The only prerequisites were the word count (couldn't be above 20,000 words) and that the story had to be a retelling of Cinderella. I had no trouble writing a retelling, but I did have trouble with the word count. I went way over, and then had to cut out a lot of my story.

Long story short, I didn't win the contest (thank you Anne Elisabeth Stengle for hosting in the first place!), but I did have a blast creating the story. Then, I put it aside. I thought it was done.

Until then, I'd never written anything that long before. Once I wrote that story, and realized I could write more than just a few pages without giving up, I really went for it. I wrote a novel. About something completely different, mind you. I jumped from fairy tale retelling to science fiction.

The novel has been finished since July, and I'm just now getting back to editing it. I've been so neglectful. I kinda wandered around in the nebulous vacuum of not having anything immediate to work on, until I was inspired to enter another writing contest, this time for the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast.

While I was working on the Beauty story, I had an epiphany. It went something like this: Hey, you! Yeah, you! You spent months and months writing this other story and you've done NOTHING with it. Why don't you revise it and then put it out on Amazon. It wouldn't hurt, you know. Just give it a try.

So, that's exactly what I did. I went back to my original story, revised it, retitled it, had a cover made for it, and now it's on Amazon, ready for people to actually read it.

OMG...people are actually going to read it.
There's typos. I know there are typos.
I don't know where the typos are, otherwise I would have taken them out, but surely they're there. Hiding.
And someone is going to find them.
And point them out.
And give me a bad review because of them.
Oh lord....

Being a writer is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.
I don't mind bearing my soul on the blog, for you. I know you. I like you.
But strangers might be reading my book.
And reviewing my book.
Nobody reviews me on the blog. Thank goodness.

So, anyway, tomorrow my book gets released. My beautiful, little novella.
If you happen to read a copy, I'd love to know. Even better, I'd love a kind review.
If you hate it, email me instead. :O)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Being Successful

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Kansas Chapter of SCBWI's (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference.

It was a good conference. I learned a lot. I met some interesting people. I took away a lot of great tips.

I'm not sure if I'll go back next year.

I might. Or maybe not. I'm a little undecided at this point.

SCBWI, like most writer organizations, is aimed at traditionally published authors. For a long, long time, that is what I thought I wanted to do as well. I've tried in the past. I've queried. Sent out lots of letters. Received nothing back, perhaps a rejection slip if I was lucky. I gave up after awhile, and then life took me other places. I have no regrets about that, but now that I'm older (if not wiser), I'm wondering if traditional publishing will help get me to my goals and whether I can count myself as successful if I only go the independent, self-published route.

I think I can.

Yes, I would love, love, LOVE to have my book on the shelf of a Barnes & Noble. I'd love to walk through Wal-Mart or Target and see something I've written be there for the world to see. That would be fantastic. But, is that what has to happen for me to feel successful.

I don't think so.

I think as long as I reach my goals a bit at a time, that I can feel successful at any point in my writing career.

My first goal is to have 5 books up online for readers to get their hands on.
Once I've accomplished that goal, I think I'll feel successful.

Another goal is to have earned enough in royalties to pay for some much-needed writing tools: scrivener, and a treadmill desk are both at the top of my list.

A great big goal I have is to duplicate, and then replace, my current income so that I can transition to writing full time. That's a mega huge goal!

Not one of these goals is contingent on having my book on the shelf at a bookstore, box store, or the library. But, I will still count myself as a success when I reach these goals.

I think it's important to focus on what really, truly are the goals you want to achieve, and the smaller goals you can set on the way to the great, big, granddaddy goals that will take some time.

What goals are you going to set to help you be successful?

Image Source: By Icely88 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pushing Through

Tonight I was writing with my good friend, Becky, and I made the comment: “I would be such a good, professional writer – if it wasn’t for the writing part.”

Writing is hard.

Sometimes it flows out of me like liquid, the words pouring out onto the page and forming amazing sentences and stories that I barely knew were in my consciousness.

And at other times, those words feel like molasses, moving so slowly that each word is a struggle to get onto the page.

I don’t know why writing is like this. Why one day it can come so easily, and the next it is such a struggle. I do know that it’s worth the struggle. Most things worth doing are worth the struggle.

I have this strange belief that my struggle with weight loss is intrinsically connected to my struggle with writing. I don’t know why, but part of me really believes that I won’t be successful as a writer if I’m not successful losing weight. It’s weird, and doesn’t make a lot of sense, but on some level it does. I know that being dedicated and disciplined, even when the struggle is real and hard, helps to make something out of nothing. The dedication it takes to struggle through weight loss can lead to a healthier, more active life, and the struggle with the words on the page, even when they’re coming out only one word per minute, will lead to having something to show for all my hard work.

I’m trying to remind myself of that tonight. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this month. Today is the first day of writing on a story that I hope will be at least 50,000 words long by the end of November. In order to do that, I need to write about 1600 words a day. I’m trying to write 2000. If Stephen King can write that many every day, then surely so can I, right? Yeah, because I’m just as cool as Stephen King. I can at least pretend to be as dedicated. It was a real struggle to get to 2000 words tonight. The words came slow. Just like molasses. But, I decided to be like Stephen King, and just fake it until I make it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

YA or Middle Grade? Which is right for me?

Although I haven't yet published any of my fiction, I have 2 short stories (novellas, really) written, and a young adult, speculative fiction novel written and waiting in the wings for me to finally finish editing and get out into the world.

I love the writing part...not sure how hip I am to the revising part of the gig. They'll get done soon, though. I need to do some goal setting for those, so they can get out into the world and into the hands of actual readers.

I've been thinking hard about where to go with my next story. So far, all of my fiction has been geared more towards YA, but I'm also toying with creating a Middle Grade series.

What's the difference, you ask?

Young Adult literature focuses more on young adult characters between the ages of 15 - 18 (not in college). See, it's not just a clever name. With that age range comes a more mature set of themes. Some cussing, allusion to sex, violence, gruesome death seems to be part of many YA novels, though it doesn't necessarily have to be. There are plenty of YA books without that stuff, too. It's all about the audience that you're reaching for...though, I know a lot of grown adults that still read YA, your truly included.

Middle Grade books have characters roughly between the ages of 10 - 15, and though there can be deep, mature themes, the content of the book doesn't usually have cussing, sex, or gruesome violence. The books are usually aimed at an audience between grades 3-6, though some middle grade books do very well with other kids (and adults) as well. The first Harry Potter book comes to mind, as one that was written for middle grade readers, and found a much larger market.

So, I have a series in mind that could go either way, with YA or Middle Grade, and I'm debating where to take it.

If it goes the YA route, I'll be able to make more complex relationships, and add romance to the mix. Romance is not so big in Middle Grades.

But, if I keep it as a Middle Grade, then I can focus less on romance, and more on the action and plotting, which is my strong point.

Perhaps I'll get this all sorted out, and get an outline together just in time for NaNoWriMo. I'm going to try to stick with it this year, and get something done to 50,000 words. That may just be perfect for a Middle Grade novel.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Writerly Stuff

I've had many notebooks over the years, to fill with ideas for stories. Many of them have been thick, hard-covered journalesque tomes that seemed weighty and wise, just for their sheer size. Obviously, such weight and girth would produce amazing ideas, right?

Perhaps not so much. Most of them got only a few pages filled, and then I promptly lost interest, and then abandoned them.

My current writing notebook is a 4" x 6" cheapo, plastic-bound notebook from the dollar store. It was an ugly shade of green, so I covered it in fabric tape to make it a little less hideous. I may have actually made it less visually appealing though. Oh well.

I've learned my lesson.

My big heavy journals were too cumbersome to take anywhere with me. They were big and unwieldy, and unless I wanted to carry another five pounds in my backpack, they just stayed home.

Now, long past my college days, I no longer sport a backpack wherever I go, but my notebook is always able to come with me. It slides easily into my purse or computer bag, and I always have it there to write in.

Here's what I write in my notebook:

IDEAS. Lots, and lots of ideas.

I had so many in my head the other night, that I had to take a few minutes to just sit and write them down until they were all out of my head. Some were short story ideas, some were YA novels, and some were more geared for Middle Grades, but once they were all out, I had over 20 ideas for stories sitting in my notebook.

I will never, ever run out of things to write.

I only have to figure out what it is that I want to write about first!

Here's me getting ready to write. Trusty laptop? Check! Soda? Check! Writer's notebook? Check! Earbuds? Check! Creepy pictures of authors staring at me while I write? Check! Check! And check!

Today, I was lucky enough to have a few free hours, sans kids and sans work, so I dropped by my lovely, local library to do engage in some writerly time.

I love writing at the library. I love passing all the shelves and shelves full of books. They give me hope. Someday my books are going to be on those shelves, I tell myself as I pass through the stacks. On my way to a table and rather uncomfortable chair, I stop by the biographies in the juvenile section. I started doing that this past summer. While I'm there, I pick up a few picture books of contemporary, famous authors. Then I take these books back to the table where I'm working, and I set the books up to face me as I write.

Tonight, the faces of Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowlings, and RL Stine watched as I typed away at an outline for a new story I'm about to get working on. I love having those faces watch me. It's as if they are cheering me on. "Go for it! Keep plugging away! Your persistence is going to totally pay off one of these days - soon! You can do it!!" Yes, I listen to the voices in my head.

I smile at these one-time-wannabe-now-living-the-dream authors, put in my ear buds and listen to my favorite Pandora stations while I type, type, type away, eager to prove them right.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Goodreads Review of Wonder by R.J. Palacio

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Wonder, let me count the ways I loved you.

1) You were a fun read, but a poignant one as well. Many lessons were learned between the pages of your front and back covers.

2) I loved how the book changed narrators. The change of voice from August to Via was amazing. My jaw dropped. Because I was amazed. Hence: amazing.

3) The ending was heartfelt, but not too cheesy. Thanks for laying off the cheese.

4) You made me cry, Wonder. I actually had to put you down so I could hunt for some tissues. Rarely does a book have that kind of impact on me.

Wonder, you rock.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Can Do it All!! - Well, Not So Much

I have a lot of interests, and a love of learning, which has led to dabbling in a lot of different areas.

I'm a dabbler. And I'm not afraid to admit it.

One of the areas I've dabbled in is desktop publishing and graphic design. I'm not an expert. I'm not even a novice. I'm just someone who pays attention. So, when I published my first book online (let's be honest, it's a booklet - short - 30 pages, can hardly be called a book, but I will anyway), I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on paying for a book cover designer. I didn't know if the book would sell a single copy, so I wasn't willing to pay a lot upfront.

Alas, that led to me designing my own cover when I uploaded my ebook to Amazon. At first, I was so proud just to have it up there, but as time went on and I noticed the quality of other book covers, I realized I needed to make a change.

Advice from several podcasts and webinars that advised having a stellar cover affirmed my need for a change. It was time.

There are a lot of places to outsource work out on the interwebs. I haven't used them all, but I know of them.
99 Designs
and others.

I'm sure they're good and offer fantastic service and value.

However, the site that caught my eye, and eventually earned a thank you from my pocketbook was Fiverr.com

For $5 you can get almost anything. It's amazing. My ebook cover cost only $5, and was done in less than a week. Awesomesauce!

And the quality is fantastic, as well. My designer did a fantastic job. Here's a link to his site on Fiverr in case you're interested: https://www.fiverr.com/jimmygibbs

Isn't his work amazing?!

I can't believe I ever thought that designing my own book cover was acceptable. Tonight I was listening to a podcast, and the very successful entrepreneur on the show espoused over and again the importance of focusing on your strengths, and not your weaknesses. Obviously, graphic design is not my strength. I've decided it's time for less dabbling, and more focused doing.

I hereby declare myself a doer, instead of a dabbler!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fighting Inertia

I love writing. I really, truly do. I love to put down words on paper - or in this case, computer screen.

I love to change words, manipulate them, find the perfect one. I love the feeling of my fingers on the keyboard, typing away when I'm really into the story and time seems to melt away as I write, and write, and write.

I love writing.

So, I don't understand why it's so HARD TO DO sometimes. Why is it that when it's time to write, I suddenly have to clean my house? Or clear out the inbox in my email that I haven't touched for 2 years? Or take the dog for a walk?

Why in the world is it so dang hard to get started?

I wish I had the answer to this question. I don't. Sorry. I just know that starting is hard for me. Once I get past the initial "What am I going to work on today?" hump, I'm usually good to go. For example, right now I'm booking away on this blog post pretty well. But, I visited about 10 different websites before I actually started writing. Why is that?

Now that I'm in the flow of writing, all is good. I don't know why there is this inertia that keeps me from writing. I don't know what causes it. All I know is that it exists.

If you've cleaned up and organized, and are ready to get down to the business of writing, then I want to encourage you to just get started. I think that helps me. Just tell yourself to do one sentence. Then, push for just one paragraph. Maybe you can do one half page? Now a page? Now maybe 500 words? Now, maybe an entire chapter?

These are the trick questions I have to use on myself to get me going. They help, though, which is why I use them.

Another trick I've heard about for getting in the writing mood is to spend about 5 minutes writing on something other than the project you're working on. You can free write, journal, or write a blog post...whatever. All you need is to get your fingers ready to start typing, and get your brain moving a little bit so that when you quit your warm-up routine, you're ready to get going on your main manuscript, and can blow inertia right out of the water.

Okay. This blog post is now done. I shall go write.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I Declare Myself a Writer!

I was sitting in a large-group meeting a few days ago, and we were asked by the speaker to write a few sentences that we say to ourselves when we're at our worst. The idea was that as human beings, we have the tendency to put ourselves down with self-talk that we would never say aloud to another human being. I might tell myself, "You have no talent. You're a hack. You'll never make it!" But I would NEVER say that to another person.

If it's not okay for me to say to someone else, then why is it okay for me to say it to myself?

Well, actually, it's not. Negative self-talk is a form of bullying --- self-bullying, and it's not okay. I need to stop doing that. If you're using negative self-talk you need to stop that, too. Stop being a bully to yourself.

But, that's not the point of today's post. (It's just a convenient sidebar. Consider it a bonus!)

No, the point is what happened later in the meeting.

The speaker told us to imagine what we would say if it was our best friend who was having a hard time, and needed a little inspiration. What would you say to them? Write that down.

So I did.

I wrote a few sentences that truly came from my heart.

You have strength and resilience that you have not yet begun to tap. Believe in yourself as much as I do. You can do this.

It's not Shakespeare, of course, but it's pretty good. At least, that's what the lady who read it thought. In fact, she liked it so much that she shared it aloud to the whole group, and it received several "ooh's" and "ahh's."  Then, the leader of the group asked this question..."Wow, that's great! Are you a writer?"

I have to tell you, I hesitated for just a second.

In my head, I was thinking of replying with, "Not really. I'm a teacher, actually. But, I want to be a writer someday."

I didn't say that, though. I think I realized that if I said those words, I would be belittling myself, doing the exact thing that the leader's lesson was about. I needed to embrace myself as a writer.

The question she asked me wasn't, "Wow, that's great. Are you an author, published by a reputable publishing company?"

It was a simple question. Are you a writer?

So, after my initial pause, I answered.

Yes. I am.

Because I am a writer.
Someday, I hope to be a published one.
Perhaps, even a best-selling one.
If I'm lucky, I'll even be a full-time one, able to pursue my dream of writing and quit my day job.

But even without all that, I'm still a writer.
I declare it.
I claim it.

I am a writer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Find Yourself an Expert

Although I majored in English in college, I sometimes still struggle with the basics of the English language.

I'm big enough to admit that.

My vocabulary is not as broad as I would like it to be. My knowledge of grammar is lacking. I find commas completely elusive. And dear lord, don't get me started on spelling. (Thank God for auto correct, is all I can say.)

I'm obviously not the perfect writer. I know I will never be the perfect writer. However, I am a pretty darn-good reader. I love reading, and I try to read as voraciously as I can. Last year, when I began writing more seriously, I decided to use my reading to help improve my writing.

It worked.

In particular, I was curious about how to make my dialogue tighter. I wanted to also make sure I was using quotation marks correctly, and of course, master the elusive comma if possible. I took out a random book from my stack of lovelies, those books that are waiting for me to read, turned to a random page, and tried to see how that writer used dialogue. 

Reading with the eyes of a writer changed my reading completely. I feel like I'm being taught by an expert every time I read. I use it in my teaching as well. With students who weren't sure how to use punctuation, I took them through the pages of the book they were currently reading. I could visibly see the lightbulb go off in that kiddos head. Just like it had gone off in mine. 

So, I encourage you to Read, Read, Read with the eyes of a writer. 

I'll warn you though, if you're not doing this already...get ready to be lifted to heights of amazement and mind-blowing learning, but also be ready to be horribly disappointed. I think I've disliked more books than I ever have before, because I now read through my books with the eyes of a writer. Especially the second-in-a-series-bridge-book. Those in particular, tend to be disappointing. However, when I find a good book, with amazing prose, an incredible turn of phrase that makes me sit back in awe, it's worth it. I take notes.

So, go! Off with you! Read, read, read, and find yourself an expert to learn from!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Time to get Chopping

It's about time.

I've been waiting patiently for a few weeks now.

I haven't talked about it. Much. Or thought about it. Much. And I certainly haven't read any of it. Much.

The rough draft.

The really, really, really rough draft of my first novel.

I've tried to lay it aside, so that I can look over it with fresh eyes. Editor eyes. Hopefully. It's printed out and sitting in a binder next to my bed. Waiting for the red pen of death.

I'm simultaneously looking forward to, and dreading the first read through. I don't want to read back over my story and tell myself, "This is crap." "This is crap." "This is crap." Who wants to hear that?

And what if I get done with my revisions, my many, many revisions, and no one likes it? What if it really IS crap? What if all I can do is crap? What if I'm just destined to be a crappy writer? What happens then?

Breathe...breathe...it's going to be all right.

Sheesh. I was really having a moment there. Okay. I think I'm done now.

So, now that I'm calm, here's the plan:
1. Don't worry that it's crappy. All writers start with crap.
2. Go through each revision with one or two purposes in mind. Don't try to fix theme, foreshadowing, grammar, punctuation, added scenes, cut scenes, additional details, all in one fell swoop. Pick a couple of things to look for first, and then go through and make changes as needed. Then go back through a second time.
3. Rinse, and repeat.
4. Don't panic.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting Past the Finish Line

I'm struggling so much tonight with pushing myself to finish a story that is getting hard for me.

This is a problem in my life. I'll start a story, and as soon as it gets hard, complicated, or I'm not sure what's coming next - BAM! - time to start a new story! That really isn't good for me, at least not as far as getting anything completely finished is concerned. 

I have a lot of fun starts on my computer. The beginning is always fun for me. I love beginnings. Endings can be fun, too. It's middles that I'm not such a big fan of. Middles take time. And planning. And a sense of direction. None of these are areas of expertise for me. 

This is where I find that I will go farther, do better, and feel more confident if I stop for a bit and do some outlining. I'm not a planner by nature. When I start a story, I have a general idea of what I want to have happen, well, major plot points at least. But, the devil's in the details, and I'm not so good at those. I'll start off doing well for awhile, and then I get stuck, because I don't have a clear idea of exactly what I want to have happen. When this occurs, I try to step back, and outline where I want to go from there, and usually, I get unstuck and can move on.

I'm trying to tell this to myself, so I can get motivated to finish this dang story that I'm stuck on. 

Ok. Cummon, now. Outline your plot so you can get a move on. 

Alright, I've gotta go plan my story, so that someday soon it will actually be finished. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

A FREE Education

I'm all about learning.

What can I say, I'm a teacher. Go, learning!!

I'm even MORE excited about learning something for free. If you're not into learning, that's okay, I guess. But, I think if you're a writer, you have to always be working on becoming a better writer, and part of that happens by learning from experts.

Never before in the history of...history...has it been as easy to learn something as it is now. Most of what you want to know is just a clever Google keyword away.

I wanted to know why I get dizzy riding roller coasters as an adult, when I could ride them over and over as a kid without getting the least bit nauseous.

I wanted to know how different types of cheeses are made.

I wanted to learn how to pick the lock on my bathroom door after the two-year-old munchkin locked it.

All of these things I learned through a quick internet search.

If you want to be a better writer (heck, a better anything), I think it would behoove you to find someone who is doing what you want to be doing and learn how it is that they do it. There are tons of blogs out there (like mine!) by writers, editors, agents who give advice about writing. If you haven't already, you should check them out.

Personally, I'm an auditory learner. My choice method of learning is by listening to Podcasts. I'm a Podcast junkie. Whenever I'm in the car, I get a podcast going. Folding laundry? Podcast time! Doing the dishes? Podcast!  I can't get enough of them. Sometimes, I even create chores for myself just so I can score a little more time to listen to a Podcast.

Here are a few that I'm listening to right now, and that I highly recommend:

Writing Excuses - This podcast is hosted by a team of four published authors, and is chock full of good information.

I Should Be Writing - This podcast, hosted by Mur Lafferty, is good inspiration for wannabe writers (like me!)

Packing Heat: Erotica Writing Tips and Techniques - Don't let the title throw you! Most of what the host has done is applicable to all genres of writing. Occasionally there will be talk that relates to erotica, but for the most part, it's about writing in general. (This podcast is no longer updated, but is still available for download.)

This is just a quick handful of the podcasts that I love to listen to.
Do you have a favorite writing podcast? I'd love to know what it is! Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Power of Positive Thinking

I try to be a positive person. I think I am, for the most part.

At the very least, I attempt to not be negative.

Maybe I'm just neutral, then.

Who knows? The point is, I know that being positive is important.

That's a hard thing for writers to do. The very nature of writing our thoughts down on the page leaves us open to criticism, and it's so hard to remain positive when you're constantly worrying about what other people think of you. Writers pour their very souls out on the page. I don't know how to not be worried and anxious about that.

There's a cartoon I saw on a blog post by Mur Lafferty some time ago. It's a guy sitting at a computer saying how much he sucks, how could he ever think he had talent and so on. It's labeled "A Bad Writing Day." Underneath it is a panel with the same guy, saying the same thing, except this time it's labeled "A Good Writing Day" because this time, as he's saying how much he sucks, he's typing away. Writing is so much like that. It is for me, at least.

I struggle with thinking that I'll ever be successful. That I have any talent for writing, whatsoever. That anyone would ever be interested in the stories that I have to tell.

I'm sitting in the middle of a library as I type this. I'm surrounded by thousands of books. Perhaps millions. It's a big library. And I'm guessing that every one of the authors that penned these books probably had the same doubts, the same questions. Do I have any talent? Will I ever be successful? Will anyone ever be interested in the stories that I have to tell?

They're here, though. Their names are displayed prominently on the spines of their books lining the shelves, surrounding me, encouraging me. They're telling me to press on. They tell me that it's okay to doubt. It's okay to question myself. It's okay to think that everything I write is crap. But, it's only okay to do it as long as I keep typing.

Do you struggle with remaining positive? If so, I'd love to know about it. It's nice to know I'm not wallowing in fear alone.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Finding Time

One of the things I struggle with the most in my life - in EVERY aspect of my life - is consistency. I don't know why I struggle with it so much, I just do.

I have great intentions. I start fantastic projects. I have really good ideas.

I have no stick-to-it-ness, though. Or at least, very little of it.

I'm trying to change this defective part of my personality, though. Perhaps it's just part of the curse of I-can-do-that-itus (a condition I have self-assessed myself with), that I think I can do anything and everything, and so I try to do it all and get nothing done instead. Much like that run-on sentence, I have the tendency to go everywhere and get very little accomplished.

So, I'm trying to fix this.

I really, really, REALLY want to be a full-time writer. I love teaching, but I would jump at the chance to be a full-time writer and pen book after book after book. How awesome would that be? I know that in order to get started I have to, well, get started. I have some things written, but I really need to get as much out there as I can in order to have any hope of being successful. I'd like to be published by a publishing house, but I'd also like to have a successful e-publishing business as well. In order for either to happen, I have to get more stuff finished.

I have no lack of ideas. I'm brimming with ideas. I'm idea girl! But, I lack consistency in finding time to write every single day so I can get my ideas into real-live-honest-to-goodness books.

I need to make writing a priority. It needs to be more than a hobby in my mind if it's ever going to become my full-time occupation. Even if I don't have the talent to be an author, I need to at least have the tenacity to do so. The talent can be revised into my books, if needed. :)

We all get 24 hours a day. Stephen King has only 24 hours. Janet Evanovich has only 24 hours. Suzanne Collins has only 24 hours a day. I have been blessed with 24 hours as well. I need to make the most of them.

I already have tried to take out a lot of time sucks out of my day. I don't watch television. We don't have cable, which helps. I have kids, so a lot of my time after work involves getting them home, making dinner, and keeping them from killing each other until bed time. If you're like me, and working a full-time job, I know how difficult it can be to find the time to write.

But, if you're like me, and you want to someday have a writing career, then you and I both will need to find the time to get our writing done. I know I need to get rid of some more time sucks. Facebook needs to be minimized in my life. I can lose 30 minutes to an hour there, easily. I need to just do that when I can't write, like when dinner's cooking and I'm trying to shoo my kids out of the kitchen. Then, when I do find time to write later, I need to keep myself from ever logging on to Facebook and just get to writing.

So, that's my commitment. When it comes to writing time, which for me, is when the kids are finally tucked away in bed, then it's JUST writing time. Nothing else. No YouTube. No Facebook. No Twitter. Nothing. Just write.

Join me, will you?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Before you read this...

Now that I'm done writing the first draft of my novel, I'm faced with temptation.

It's such a burning temptation, that it's difficult not to give in.

Oh, the pain!

Here it is...

I want someone to read my story.

Earth shattering, I know. Of course, I want someone to read it. That's why writers write, so that we can have people read our stuff, tell us it's not nearly as crappy as we thought, bolster our very fragile egos, and tell all their friends about this amazing story they just read from us. That's what we do, right?

So, I understand the temptation to write something, and then immediately give it to a few trusted individuals to read and give us their feedback (and by feedback, I mean compliments and constructive criticism, not a scathing review, thank you very much).

But, STOP!

Don't do it!

I implore you to fight against the temptation to give anyone your very first draft to read.


Well, honestly, it's probably still full of crap. If you have learned how to write and furious, and to ignore your internal editor until you have your first draft done and on the page, then you've been flinging crappy writing around. That's okay! That's what you were supposed to do!  But, that doesn't mean you're ready to share it with anyone.

I teach kids how to write, and the biggest struggle for them is writing something down, believing they just threaded together sentences that sparkle like diamonds, and then feel that they they're done. Here! Read my three paragraph story that I wrote in 10 minutes. It's awesome!

I've learned over my 10+ years of teaching that the first thing anyone writes is never, EVER awesome. Parts of it may be awesome. Much of it may aspire to awesomeness. But, the whole piece is never, ever, EVER awesome.

Again you ask, Why?

Because it's the first stinkin' draft, that's why!

It's supposed to be crappy. It may exist in various shades of crappiness from incredibly, mind-blowingly crappy, to only mildly crappy, but it will be crappy nonetheless.

I have no desire to force my crappy writing on anyone. I'm sure you don't either.

So, what should I do? I hear you ask. Well, I think you should be your very first reader. You should probably be the second reader, too. And the third. In fact, I think you should be the only reader until you have revised the crap right out of that story, and have absolutely no idea how you can possibly make it any better. Then, and only then, do you share it with a critique group, a friend, a family member, whomever you are looking to for feedback.

I think it's imperitive that you do this.

Why? (You love that question just as much as my two-year-old daughter, I see.)

Because frankly, I don't want to read crap. I love reading! But, I only want to read the very best that my students can create. That doesn't mean it has to be perfect. It can still need lots of work, that's fine. But, I insist that my students have made their draft the very best that they know how to make, before it ever is read by anyone else.

I expect them to read their story aloud. (You should, too! You'll be amazed by what you find.)
I expect them to correct spelling and grammar mistakes.
I expect them to constantly ask themselves "Does this make sense?".
I expect them to check for continuity.
I expect them to be able to outline the main characters, problem, and resolution.
I expect that the very first draft looks vastly different from the draft they hand to me.
In short, I expect them have done their very best work before a peer reader, or their teacher, ever sets eyes on it.

I expect this of myself, as well.

I have the advantage of age and experience over my students, but that doesn't mean that I turn out nuggets of gold everytime my fingers start typing. I have to hold myself to the same standards that I hold them to, so before I ever show anyone my writing, I make sure that I've gone over it again and again (and again, and again, and again, and again, and again and again) before I ask someone else to read it.

I'll admit, I've given in to the temptation a few times. I've dashed off something, believed it to be the prose of a genius, and given it to friends to read. And then, I've always faced the shame and embarrassment of having them point out typos in my story.


When I give a story to someone to read, I don't want them to be fixated on typos! I want them to be pulled into the story and help me find key elements that need to be changed in order to make my story stronger. Is the theme evident? Are the characters believable? Is the plot intriguing?

Not - Did I spell this right? Is this the proper use of commas and colons? Are my verb tenses mixed up?

So, I urge you, writer, to be your very first beta reader, and your second reader, and your third, and so on until you've taken out as much crap as possible, and filled it with your amazing writing. Then, feel free to share it with your critiquers for advice and help.

Just don't be surprised when they find crap that you missed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Getting to Know You

I'm about to embark on a new writing adventure. I'm thinking of a story for a writing contest hosted by Anne Elisabeth Stengl and Rooglewood Press. The story is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

I love fractured fairy tales. They're so much fun. I loved the retelling of Sleeping Beauty this summer with Disney's Malificent. Even though I'm not a huge fan of Angelina Jolie, I loved the movie. In particular, I loved the story, and how similar and very different it was from the Disney story I watched as a child. That's what I love about fractured fairy tales and retellings of fairy tales.

I digress.

So, I'm planning a story for this Beauty and the Beast retelling, and though I have the plot laid out in my head, I don't have a good feeling for the characters quite yet. That's always my biggest struggle.

I'll often say I have the best idea for a story!

I have yet to say, I have the best character for a story!

Maybe there are people who do that, but I'm not one of them. Nope, instead my stories tend to be very plot driven, instead of character driven. So, what do you do when you're not sure who your main character is?

Here's a technique I've used in the past, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to use it to figure out my Beauty and Beast characters for my story...I interview them.


I do.

I write down some interview questions, and then I take on their perspectives and answer the questions the way I think those characters would. It helps me to get in their skin a little bit, and figure out who they are. They don't always stay that way, and that's alright. It helps me though, to get a sense of who I am working with and what makes them tick.

Here are a few interview questions I'll be asking my next characters.

Tell me about your family.

Do you get along with your parents/siblings?

Do you consider yourself introverted or extroverted?

If you had the whole day to yourself, what would you do?

What's your favorite food?

If your house was burning down, and you had the chance to save one item, what would it be?

What quality to you admire most in people?

Where do you want to see yourself one year from now? 5 years from now?

What was the most difficult time in your life so far?

What is one thing you wish you could change about you or your past?

(If interviewing a villain) Were you born with evil tendencies, or was it something that happened over time?

(If interviewing a villain) Do you consider yourself evil, just misunderstood, or something else?

What do you most want to do in this world?

What is keeping you from doing what you want to do?

Who are your best friends?

Who/what is your greatest enemy?

So, that's about all the questions that I can think of for now. I'm sure that if I gave myself some more time, I could probably pump out some more, but honestly, as I start to interview my characters, I find that I have more questions for them. Just like a real interview.

So, if you're having trouble figuring out who your characters are, give this method a try. I hope you find it helpful.

If you have any other ways of getting into your characters' heads, I'd love to know about it. Leave your advice in the comments! Share the love!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Art of Organization

I'm not an organized person by nature. I'm just not.

Don't try to change me.

However, with writing, it become necessary at times to get organized and stay organized. Otherwise, chaos ensues.

So, here are some organizational tactics that I use to keep my from going completely insane when it's time to revise.

There are two things I've finally learned to do, and have been consistent about. (Yea for consistency!) First, I organize all my changes, and second, I organize a list of characters and important facts about my story.

If you have a fancy-schmancy writing program like Scrivener, then you have all the tools at your disposal to stay organized, and so shame on you if you don't.  However, if you're like me -  dirt poor financially restricted, then you'll be using freeware, or something already on your computer like Word or Pages. If you're a pen and paper kinda person, well, then continue on. I salute you.

So, to keep track of my changes, ah-ha's, and oops-i-need-to-go-back-and-fix-such-and-such, I keep a running record at the very top of my document. If I'm really good, I even include a page number of where a change needs to be made. (I'm not usually that good, though, let's be honest.) I tend to write linearly, so when I come to a question in my head, I just bop my way to the top of the page, write down my thoughts, and then bop back down to the end.  Now that I'm done with my first draft of a novel that I've been working on for several months, I'm going back through my bullet points, adding, axing, changing, blending, whatever. As soon as that issue has been addressed in my draft, I delete it and move on to the next item that needs fixing. Voila! Organization. At least, a little bit.

As I was writing my novel, and I have to call it MY NOVEL, because it's the only novel I've written - up to this point (If you're reading this in the future, of course I've become incredibly prolific and probably have dozens of novels out there in the world for you to enjoy. You should buy one!) so anyway, as I was writing my novel, I didn't always have a strong idea of where I was going and who was going to pop into my story at one time or another. Before I sat down to write, I had a basic idea of who my main characters were, but then all these secondary characters starting showing up, and before I knew it, I had forgotten someone's name, or who they were friends with. It all became rather confusing, and surprisingly quickly, too. So, to help me keep every one's names straight, and how they were related to each other, I started an Excel spreadsheet and started listing characters' names, personality traits that were important to the story, setting information that I didn't want to forget, and anything else that I was worried I might forget about.

It turned out to be super helpful to do that. So, now I will remember to START my writing that way in the future. I didn't get this system figured out until I was nearly halfway through writing my novel. That meant that I had to go back and read through everything I had written thus far. It felt like such a time waste to have to go back and do that, and of course I wanted to go and edit every little thing I could as I was re-reading. I had to force myself to just keep my fingers on the arrow keys, so I couldn't edit anything else. Now I know better. Start a spreadsheet of character info from the beginning. Gee, what a concept!

So, those are a couple of ways I organized my work so that it would be easier to go back and revise, and keep everything straight. I don't have enough room in my head to keep all that information tucked in there, that's for sure.

I'd love to know what ideas and tips you might have for staying organized while writing, so please feel free to share in the comments!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Write Crap!

I'm a newbie. I admit that.

And I'm still prone to making newbie mistakes.
One of the ones I'm proud of NOT making anymore is that I no longer struggle with getting the words down.

It used to be a huge struggle.
I would write a chapter, and before I could go on to the next, I would rework it over, and over and over again, trying to make absolutely perfect. I think a lot of newbie writers struggle with this.

I've adopted a new philosophy of writing my first draft, however. I think it's a philosophy shared with most writers, at least the ones that I've heard from. I call it "flinging crap fast and furious."

The first draft is going to be crap.
It's okay to be crap.
It's expected to be crap.
There is no shame in crap.

After all, it's the first draft. Not the second, or third, or twelfth. It's okay to be crappy.
So, just get the crappy writing over and done with as fast as humanly possible.
Write as much as you can, as fast as you can, without stopping to revise and edit along the way.
I've heard that some writers don't even bother to fix typos or spelling errors as they write their first draft. I'll admit, I hit the backspace button quite a bit to redo misspellings, but other than that, just get it out there.

Get it done.

Get your crappy writing down on the page.
You can fix your crap later.